Serositis related to systemic lupus erythematosus: prevalence and outcome

Lupus. 2005;14(10):822-6. doi: 10.1191/0961203305lu2187oa.


The objective of this study was to describe the prevalence and outcome of disease-related serositis in Chinese patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The records of all SLE patients who attended the medical clinics of Tuen Mun Hospital, Hong Kong were retrospectively reviewed. Patients with disease-related serositis at any stage of their illness were identified and the outcome of these serositis episodes was reported. Three-hundred and ten patients (90% women) who fulfilled at least four of the ACR criteria for SLE were studied. The mean age of SLE onset was 32.6 +/- 13.1 years. sixty-nine episodes of SLE-related serositis occurred in 37 patients - 18 (26%) episodes were pericarditis/ pericardial effusion, 30 (44%) were pleuritis/pleural effusion and 21 (30%) were peritonitis/ascites. The prevalence of serositis was 12%. At the time of serositis, 34 (92%) patients had active SLE in other systems. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were initially used in 13 (35%) patients. Moderate to high doses of oral prednisolone was used in 28 (76%) patients for both serositis and concomitant disease activity in other organs. All episodes of serositis resolved completely within two months. Over a mean observation of 46 months, nine patients had 18 relapses of serositis, which were responsive to either NSAIDs or augmentation of prednisolone dosage. Pleural fibrosis developed in three patients. Serosal complications are not uncommon in patients with SLE and can be life-threatening. NSAIDs and corticosteroids are often effective but more aggressive immunosuppressive therapy is required for severe or refractory cases. The prognosis of lupus serositis is generally good. Relapse or progression to fibrotic disease is uncommon.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Hong Kong / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy
  • Male
  • Pericardial Effusion / drug therapy
  • Pericardial Effusion / epidemiology
  • Pericardial Effusion / etiology
  • Pericarditis / drug therapy
  • Pericarditis / epidemiology
  • Pericarditis / etiology
  • Peritonitis / drug therapy
  • Peritonitis / epidemiology
  • Peritonitis / etiology
  • Pleural Effusion / drug therapy
  • Pleural Effusion / epidemiology
  • Pleural Effusion / etiology
  • Pleurisy / drug therapy
  • Pleurisy / epidemiology
  • Pleurisy / etiology
  • Prednisolone / therapeutic use
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Serositis / drug therapy
  • Serositis / epidemiology*
  • Serositis / etiology*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Prednisolone